Six-year completion rates edge up

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A new report shows that six-year completion rates at community colleges and other sectors of higher education continued to rise with students starting college in fall 2015. Although the data reflects students who largely completed before the pandemic, it’s at least some positive news that efforts to increase college completions seemed to be working.

The national six-year completion rate for the 2015 cohort — tracking enrollment and completion of students starting in fall 2015 through June 2021 — reached 62.2%, a 1.2 percentage point increase over the 2014 cohort, according to new research by the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) Research Center. Students from all starting institution sectors saw increases in completion rates, with the largest increase of 1.5 percentage points among community colleges starters.

“Students who started college six years ago have been completing degrees and certificates at higher rates than in recent years,” Doug Shapiro, the center’s executive director, said in a release. “This broad measure of performance for higher education as a nationwide system, including transfers among two- and four-year schools of all kinds, shows long-term improvements for students and colleges alike, gains that took hold mostly in the pre-pandemic period.”

The six-year completion rate for community college students in the 2015 cohort is 42.2%, compared to 40.7% for the 2014 cohort. The rate for the 2013 cohort was 41.1%, marking the first time it surpassed 40% over the 10 years that the NSC Research Center has tracked the data.

Overall, completion rates increased for White, Black and Latinx students this year, with the largest jump for Black students, showing an increase of 1.9 percentage points. Black students entering community colleges had the largest rate increase of the four racial and ethnic groups (1.6 percentage points, to 30.2%).

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.